Hearing loss is the most common birth defect and the most common sensory impairment in humans and it has been estimated that a large number of cases are due to genetic causes.
To find out how genes suspected of causing hearing loss work, a research team under the leadership of Monika Oldak, from the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, Warsaw, Poland, conducted a study using zebrafish.
These animals are transparent, amenable to genetic manipulations and have the same key components involved in sound detection as humans.
The results showed that disrupting certain genes caused defective sound processing in a way very similar to human patients with the same mutations.
This data, impossible to obtain by any other approach than using zebrafish, has opened up the possibility to look for a pharmacological treatment.
"Animals are the unsung heroes of the biomedical research and play a vital part in understanding the mechanisms of diseases and in the search for cures. While cellular processes can be partially studied without use of animals, complex organ biology is only accessible at the level of organisms.”
Przemko Tylzanowski, Chairman of the Polish Zebrafish Society, Poland.